Coming to the United States Without a Visa

September 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), nationals of 36 countries can travel to the US for tourism or business (B visa purposes only) and stay for a maximum of 90 days or less without getting a visa that is otherwise required for persons entering the US. The VWP was actually started to remove unnecessary barriers while traveling, to stimulate the tourism industry, and permit the Department of State (DoS) to concentrate its consular resources in other areas.

Persons eligible under the VWP can also apply for a visa, if they want to. It is important to note that persons from VWP countries have to fulfill certain eligibility requirements for them to travel without a visa. So it is not that all the persons from VWP countries can travel through this program. If you are choosing to travel under this program, you should have a valid authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before your travel. You will be screened at the port of entry into the US and be enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program.

So how does your country qualify under this program? Your country must meet various security and other requirements, which includes enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the US and timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports. Your country should also maintain high counter terrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards. Even if your country meets the requirements of the VWP, note that designation as a VWP country is at the discretion of the United States government.

Countries such as Canada, Mexico and Bermuda are not a part of the Visa Waiver Program. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act , there are other provisions for nationals of Canada and Bermuda to travel without a visa under certain circumstances. As these countries do not fall under the Visa Waiver Program, VWP requirements for machine-readable or biometric passports do not apply to them. Remember that some nationals of Canada and Bermuda traveling to the US should have non immigrant visas.

Another feature of this program is that VWP travelers who have been admitted can make a short trip to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island. They can be re enter the US under the VWP for the balance of their original admission period.

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